I entered Northwestern University in the fall of 1941 — a shy, skinny, ill-dressed boy on a $300 scholarship from the Winnetka Community Theater. For the first two or three days in my theater course, I sat behind a girl named Lydia Clarke. All I saw was her tumbling2) mane3) of black Irish hair, which made me tremble. She bent over her desk, taking notes. I sat bemused4), taking note only of her.
Between classes I made terse5), offhand6) remarks —“Hi there. How ya doin?” But I couldn’t figure out how to advance the relationship. I’m never even been on a date. Girls expected to be taken out and bought hamburgers and Cokes and taken home in cars. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t drive a car or know how to dance. Girls? I didn’t have a clue.
Fate, as they say, took a hand7): Lydia and I were cast in the same bill of plays. I was in Francesca da Rimini, playing a medieval lover, all tights and curled hair and daggers at the belt. Lydia was in a moody8) English piece called The Madras House. During dress rehearsal — could she have been nudging9) fate along? —Lydia asked me how to speak her opening line. She told me she was to enter and say, “Minnie, my frog is dead!” ......